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Topics for August That Will Drive Off-the-Job Safety

hands of car driver on steering wheel, road trip, driving on highway road

In August, off-the-job safety topics are more important than ever to deliver in the workplace. By this time in the summer, complacency has set in for summer hazards and with back to school approaching, the mind is often focused elsewhere. August toolbox safety topics include staying hydrated, PPE in summer, national immunization awareness month, and back to school. Here are a couple of off-the-job safety topics that could help keep your workers safe.

National Traffic Awareness Month

August is National Traffic Awareness Month—this is a time to bring our focus on workplace safety to the roadway not only for commercial drivers but all drivers. Since everyone uses roads on a regular basis and there are so many variables at play there’s a lot to consider in terms of risk, injuries and fatalities between drivers, passengers, cyclists, road construction crews and pedestrians. This would make a great toolbox talk or an overview during a safety meeting because it can encompass many workplace safety themes as well, from the types of at-risk behaviors (deliberate, unintentional, and habitual) to distractions, compliance, and safety-related habits.

Even with all the compliance measures in place, driving obviously carries a lot of inherent risks with the speed, weight, and number of vehicles. And because people are moving there is adaptive risk that people need to actively manage. Speeding and distracted driving are examples that make risk harder to manage whether the person made a conscious decision to engage in these deviations or not. And to make things more complicated, deliberate behaviors can turn habitual and even good habits can go bad unintentionally due to human factors like rushing and complacency. Almost everyone has gone over the posted speed limit at some point and everyone has been distracted behind the wheel, whether it’s from their cellphone, the radio, passengers or having their thoughts wander. But the one thing that people often overlook is driving while fatigued. Since being tired is so common people often don’t see it as a problem.

Signs, fines and awareness taglines for speeding, driving under the influence and using your cellphone help with keeping those risks in check. But fatigue is a bit trickier. Fatigue operates under the radar both at the individual level and from an observability standpoint by others even though it can equally influence risk. Driving tired is the same as driving impaired, it affects your reaction time and your judgment and ultimately can play a big role in traffic incidents.

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that drivers who miss 2–3 hours of sleep in 24 hours quadruple their risk of a crash compared to drivers getting the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. According to them, “This is the same crash risk the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associates with driving over the legal limit for alcohol.”

While you wouldn’t get behind the wheel after you’d been drinking, the same logic should be applied to when you’re tired. This August, be sure to talk to employees about traffic risks to avoid potentially fatal incidents. Check out these tips to implement one of these drowsy-driving solutions in your facility.

Brake Safety Awareness Month

A good follow-up to traffic awareness is brake safety. When it comes to vehicle safety, the brakes on a vehicle are undeniably important. There are calculations you can do to determine how long it will take for the vehicle to stop after you have applied the brakes.

According to SafeStart’s Enhancing Driver Safety On and Off the Job flex unit, the average text takes about five seconds to send. If you’re driving 70 mph you travel 100 feet per second—so if you take five seconds to send a text behind the wheel that means you have traveled 500 feet blind. That’s roughly two city blocks without your eyes on the road.

But if you don’t have time to do the calculations, the National Safety Council recommends a minimum 3-second following distance (which is also approximately three car lengths)—1.5 seconds to register/react to the need to brake and 1.5 seconds to brake. And that’s assuming that the condition of your brake pads are in good condition. This minimum recommendation applies during ideal road and weather conditions, and more time/space is required when the weather is less than ideal.

The friction of applying the brakes causes brake pads to wear down over time. In the workplace, brake maintenance should be part of the company’s preventive maintenance plan. But at home, you don’t have anyone telling you when it’s time to take your vehicle in for service. The manual that comes with your vehicle should have a recommended brake maintenance schedule, and here are several warning signs that it’s time to replace your brake pads that can be discussed with your employees.

  1.   Squeaking or squealing noise coming from brakes

While there are other causes of squeaking or squealing brakes (rain, for example) the most common cause is worn brake pads.

  1.   Grinding metal sound

Another sound that signifies that it’s time to replace your brake pads is a metal-to-metal contact when the brakes are applied, creating a grinding noise. There could be other causes of the noise but it’s often a good indicator that your brakes need some attention.

  1.   Brake service warning light

Some vehicles have a brake service warning light—and considering how important your brakes are to safe vehicle operation, if this light comes on you should heed its warning and get your brakes looked at immediately.

  1.   Brake pedal vibrates when you press it down

A vibrating brake pedal is not normal so if you notice this it’s time to take your vehicle to the shop ASAP.

  1.   Takes more time to stop/vehicle doesn’t stop like it used to

Brake fade happens when you continually use the brakes to slow down (going downhill, for example) but don’t come to a complete stop. Over time, this causes the vehicle not to come to a rapid stop like it used to and may require your brakes to be serviced more often.

  1.   Vehicle pulls to one side when braking

If your vehicle pulls to one side while braking it means the brake pads have worn down on one side faster than the other. This should be checked out as it can contribute to other problems in the vehicle if left uninvestigated.

This list is not comprehensive and is meant to bring attention to the warning signs that brakes may need some attention. It should never override the opinion of a vehicle service professional. 

A lot of safety stories people share involve driving because everyone has experienced close calls and accidents and can relate to the common factors that contributed to them. Be sure to talk about driving safety often to keep the risks top of mind for your employees. Have a fun and safe August!

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